NEW ORLEANS, LA — When the person who injured you was engaged in actions that society finds particularly egregious, a court may order that the liable party must pay you punitive damages in addition to traditional damages such as compensation for medical bills or pain and suffering. Punitive damages have a well-established history in British common law, and therefore are common in many American states.
However, Louisiana law is largely built on French jurisprudence, with origins in Roman law, and does not generally recognize punishment or revenge as appropriate in civil cases. At the same time, due to the growing Anglo-American influence with its heritage of British common law, punitive damages began to be discussed in 19th Century Louisiana. Lively debate ensued both in court and out, with Justice C.J. Slidell referring to the esteemed French jurisconsult Charles Toullier’s writing, “Si la faute qui pauvait causer du dommage n’en a point causé, la loi n’inflige aucune peine, à moins qu’une défense de commettre l’action n’eût été portée sous une peine déterminée; car alors a peine dérive d’une desobéissance, d’une contravention à la loi.” Considering Louisiana’s Civil Code in an 1855 case, Slidell opined that the discretion allowed to a court or jury to rule on certain elements of damages “by no means involves the idea that in the assessment of damages, the court or jury can travel beyond the enquiry how far the sufferer himself is affected, or exaggerate the amount for the purpose of vindicating offended public justice, or punishing the offender as an example to others.” Black v. Carrollton R. Co., 10 La. Ann. 33, 45 (1855).
Today, as a result of this tension between the Anglo and Franco-Roman traditions, Louisiana law does allow punitive damages, but only in circumstances specifically described by statute. Of these, there are very few, but the circumstance most relevant to the average plaintiff is the statute allowing for punitive damages to be assessed in a civil proceeding against a motorist who was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs when an accident occurred. Article 2315.4 of the Louisiana Civil Code states“In addition to general and special damages, exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries.”
To complicate matters, even if a Louisiana court has the ability to award punitive damages after your accident with an intoxicated driver, some insurance companies exclude punitive damages from certain policies. It is critically important that you engage the services of an experienced attorney if you or a loved one has been injured by a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Further reading on punitive damages provides interesting information, spanning from the Code of Hammurabi to the Digest of 1808 and onward. To discuss punitive damages or any other aspect of your accident or case, call The de Boisblanc Law Firm today.
NEW ORLEANS, LA — Motorcycle accidents are a leading cause of accident-related injuries and fatalities in Louisiana today. From 2012 through 2016, four hundred and thirty-two people were killed in motorcycle accidents on Louisiana’s streets and highways. According to the CDC, wearing a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle reduces the risk of dying in a collision by 37%, and reduces the risk of head injury by a full 69%. In the state of Louisiana, the law requires that motorcyclists wear helmets. In 2016, almost 1,900 lives were known to be saved by motor cycle helmets, and nearly 3.4 billion dollars in economic damages were saved by the use of motor cycle helmets. However, even when a helmet is used, serious head injury is a likely outcome when a motorcyclist is involved in a motor vehicle collision. Helmets can prevent many penetrating head trauma injuries, such as skull fractures or foreign objects entering the brain. Yet even when a helmet is worn, the forces involved in a collision can cause the brain to be injured, because the brain can be shaken inside the skull, causing swelling, bruising, or bleeding of the brain tissue.
A common outcome of a motorcycle injury is a concussion, which causes symptoms ranging from dizziness and headaches to memory loss. There may or may not be a loss of consciousness involved. Concussions are usually temporary, and may not have lasting impacts on the victim’s health. Yet sometimes, a concussion can be a symptom of a more serious condition, including those conditions categorized as Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI. Traumatic Brain Injury can have lasting or even permanent effect on the victim’s life, including a loss of economic potential and a requirement for long-term medical care. A third possible outcome of a head injury caused by a motorcycle collision is a hematoma, which is when blood pools inside the brain or between the brain and the skull. A hematoma is a life threatening condition which requires surgery.
The severity and potentially disastrous outcomes involved in a motorcycle collision require cyclists to take precautions, such as wearing a helmet, obeying all traffic laws, and being alert for other drivers. But if the worst happens, and you or a loved one is a victim in a motorcycle collision, it’s important that you seek legal representation to fight for your rights. The costs associated with head injuries are often extremely high: from surgeries to special therapies to lost wages and the potential requirement for long term medical care, the lifetime cost for the victim of a severe traumatic brain injury can reach 4 million dollars. Insurance companies will often try to make a quick and low settlement, leaving the victim and his or her family stuck with the costs. If you or someone you love has been involved in a motorcycle collision, call the experienced attorneys at the de Boisblanc Law Firm and arrange for a free consultation today.